Prince George’s, Md., police catch Twitter flak over plan to live-tweet prostitution stings

Starting next week, Maryland’s Prince George’s County Police Department will be live-tweeting prostitution stings. “From the ads to the arrests, we’ll show you how the PGPD is battling the oldest profession,” the announcement says.

The move, which the police department in the suburbs of Washington termed a “progressive … unprecedented social media tactic,” was announced Thursday in a blog post, and tweeted with the above photo of a woman being led away in handcuffs, prompting outrage and confusion about the operation, which the department says targets customers, not sex workers.


“Shame and arrest often only perpetuates peoples entrapment in prostitution or sex work, as research has shown, by creating a revolving door of incarceration, and there is little to no evidence that they end demand,” Cyndee Clay, executive director of HIPS, a D.C.-based organization that works with sex workers, told Sky News. “In response to the police department’s decision, HIPS will live tweet a day of service at its D.C. center and a night on its outreach van, which connects sex workers with counseling, HIV and hepatitis C testing and other safe sex materials,” WTOP reported.

The police department’s media relations director Julie Parker responded on Twitter saying that the sting was aimed at customers, not at the sex workers. Late last night a clarification was posted on the department’s blog. But the backlash continued:

 

 

Police departments just can’t seem to get this social media thing right. Just last week, the New York City Police Department caught major flak for their #myNYPD social media campaign. The call for citizens to tweet photos with members of NYPD resulted instead in Twitter being flooded with pictures of police roughing people up. It looks like PGPD’s plans for naming and shaming people who pay for sex are another #FAIL.

Gail Sullivan covers business for the Morning Mix blog.
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